It’s ‘official’ World Mental Health Day today. As we all know, every day is mental health day really but it’s a good thing to recognise a significant event like today, if only to raise awareness and get people talking. Whatever I think about brands jumping on the bandwagon, while not treating their employees decently – I still think it gets the conversation going and will hopefully make us better at dealing with this stuff. Trite as it sounds, it’s better to be talking about it clumsily than not at all – as long as we’re learning from our mistakes as we go.
This year’s WMHD theme is ‘mental health for all’ and I interpret that as meaning mental health resources should be available for everybody, whoever they are. Now we know funding for this kind of support is usually the first to be cut and I would imagine that the industry has taken a severe battering since COVID-19 raised its ugly head. Which is heinous when you consider the effect it’s had on us all globally. We need help and support more then ever, in a shattered economy. It blows my mind to think of the consequences of our long-term lock-down – and all the worry and grief brought about by this disease. The effects can and will be massive and long standing.
I’m definitely no expert when it comes to mental health. I’m a MH first aider at work, so I speak to colleagues a lot about how they’re feeling, and more than ever over the last six months. It’s an area I would love to explore further, ideally from a communications point of view and is something I will be pursuing when all this shit has died down. But no, I’m no expert and I’m learning with the best of them every day.
My mental health has always been a roller coaster ride and I’ve only started to ask for help, and understand it, in the last five years. I’ve gone almost 40 years without addressing the issues I clearly have – bar a short period after a break-up when my doctor slapped me on Prozac and left me to fend for myself, without any further help or discussion. That was in my twenties and honestly, the experience probably put me off seeking more help or a second opinion.
I have got help now and I’m better at managing my shit generally, but there are still moments and this year has not helped. I’ve always joked about being a part-time hermit but when the choice was taken away and we were all send back indoors, this exacerbated. I have to really force myself out of the front door now and it’s not without panic and mental distress.
I’ve just about got to the point I can meet a friend without ending up with a banging stress migraine but it’s taken time. I leave the safety of my home about once a fortnight and have to psyche myself up before I do it. I’ve eaten out once and visited one pub, but we sat outside in masks and there were just two other patrons and their dog. I am positive I’m not alone in these feelings.
A few things that have been on my mind:
There’s been a lot of talk lately about loneliness and how lock-down has intensified this feeling. I’ve been so lucky to be locked down with somebody else, I can’t imagine how it would have felt if I’d been on my own. I’ve spoken to my mum a lot over this period and she’s found it hard, saying she’d never even thought about mental health before. Now she knows she has it, she can take care of it better. Not that I want to speak for her but it’s interesting and I would imagine, not an uncommon discovery in the year 2020.
It is really hard to think of our loved ones suffering from loneliness and even harder if they are far away, or if legally we can’t even go and see them. Luckily, Mum is in our care bubble and I saw her for a whole weekend not that long ago but I am worried about what a second, stricter lock-down might look like and have invited her stay with us if it happens. Even though I think she would want to throttle me within the first few days.
Anyway, loneliness is just one of the things that worries me. Agoraphobia, health paranoia, germaphobia – the list is growing. And if the government can no longer support people with these issues and more, what’s going to happen? I don’t have the answers but I do want to help by donating money where I can and educating myself more on mental health and the resources that ARE available. Also just by being there for people when I can.
This is a hard one because there’s no face of depression. There are ways to recognise it, sure but a lot of the time it’s not something that immediately stands out. Think about people in the public eye, like Robin Williams who brought so much joy to others but was tormented in private. I know when I feel unable to operate, the only person who really sees that is the person closest to me, if I even show him. It’s easy to slap an acceptable face on it and that’s why we should be kind to others, and as observant as possible because you never know what people are dealing with.
Writing this post does make me feel I should recognise my privilege. I know all feelings and experiences are valid – but I have a good relationship, a house and a job – which I’m truly grateful for – I’m very lucky. And yet I still suffer from crippling anxiety and depression because mental health issues do not discriminate.
True friends stay in touch
There’s a certain meme that went around at the start of lock-down about how you knew who your friends were because they were the ones that stayed in touch.
I HATE this rhetoric. I hate it because some days I cannot face communicating with anybody. Texts remain unanswered, calls aren’t made – and that doesn’t mean I don’t care about my loved ones. It means I haven’t got the mental capacity to do these things and my friends understand. I think it’s important not to think like that – that we do what we can, when we can and that we’re doing the best we can. There’s no correct way to behave in a global pandemic and if there is, the rule book has yet to be written – this is the first time round for all of us. I think we should give ourselves room and time to deal with things in whatever way we see fit.
That said, when we feel capable, there’s nothing better than reaching out. It can make all the difference and it’s good to talk.
I’ll be taking today to think about what this year has shown me and what I can do to protect me own mental health, and help others at the same time.
How are you?
If you’re struggling or would like to talk, please get in touch.